Remembering Marion Woodman

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For those unfamiliar with her name, she was a Canadian Jungian analyst, a teacher, an author, and a remarkable human being, loved by thousands of women (and men) around the world. I only spent two weeks in Marion’s presence (one in Chartres and one in London, Ontario, where she and her husband Ross lived), but her books, workshops, and her way of being in the world have been an enormous blessing and inspiration to me – as a writer and a person – and this blog is written to honor her birth, recent death, and her enormous contributions to humankind.

Trusting the Cycles of Life

“I was three years old when I made the most important psychological discovery of my life. I discovered that a living creature, obeying its own inner laws, moves through cycles of growth, dies, and is reborn as a new creation.”

This opening sentence of The Pregnant Virgin was my first encounter with Marion, and I instantly knew I had found a teacher. She goes on to tell a charming, powerful story about the “sluggish” but steady transformation of Catherine Caterpillar into an apparently dead chrysalis, and then watching, with awe, the emergence of a shimmering butterfly. Marion’s words conveyed something I’d vaguely sensed in my own life but had not taken to heart. They also brought the realization that I was in a chrysalis of my own as a forty-something year old woman in the midst of a painful, disorienting divorce. And they gave me hope: “Birth is the death of the life we have known; death is the birth of the life we have yet to live.”

Coming Home to Ourselves

“If you travel far enough, one day you will recognize yourself coming down to meet yourself. And you will say – ‘yes!’” From Addiction to Perfection

Probably Marion’s greatest contribution was her wise, loving, sometimes fierce encouragement of women becoming fully and freely themselves. She was at home in herself and found her greatest internal allies in her dreams and in her body. In Dancing in the Flames, she advises, “If you want to live your own life, your [dream] images and your body are your individual guides. Together, they strengthen your inner core.”

Marion knew, from the inside out, that coming home to ourselves – for men and women – requires letting go of our illusions as well as years of practice in acknowledging the truth. In Coming Home to Myself, she writes, “A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.”

Age is also an ally in our Homecoming, and it was from Marion I first learned that the word crone likely derived from corone, which means “crown.” She speaks eloquently about a woman’s journey toward becoming the queen of her own life in The Crown of Age (an  audiobook). And in Dancing in the Flames, she and co-author Elinor Dickson write, “Crone energy is energy that has been distilled through years of attempting to speak straight from our own reality. One day we are surprised by the sound of our own voice coming straight from its ground in our own body.”

Love … and Writing

“Love is the real power. It’s the energy that cherishes. The more you work with that energy, the more you will see how people respond naturally to it, and the more you will want to use it. It brings out your creativity, and helps everyone around you flower. Your children, the people you work with — everyone blooms.”

In the spring of 2007 or 2008, I had the privilege of attending three workshops with Marion – the first on yoga and the body, the second on dreams, and the third, on poetry, was held in the home she shared with her husband Ross, a professor of literature. Being in the presence of these two was an immersion in love – open-heartedness, deep respect and listening, humor, enjoyment, and mutual delight.

Marion talked a bit about writing on one of those days, and almost a decade later her words were a catalyst for publishing Winter’s Graces. She told us that at some point you just have to call a book complete, even though there might be a chapter or a section that could be better with more time. You just have to let the book go and see what happens.


Originally published on Winter's Graces: The Suprising Gifts of Later Life by Susan Avery Stewart, PhD

Photo from New York Times

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